NASA has published a report concerning ancient Roman UFO accounts, the report entitled “Unidentified Flying Objects In Classical Antiquity” was compiled by Richard B. Stothers.
Stothers, who was a graduate of Harvard, had four papers published in the Astrophysical Journal, and was also a member of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies until his death in 2011.
The following is an extract from the report:
A combined historical and scientific approach is applied to ancient reports of what might today be called unidentified flying objects (UFOs).
Many conventionally explicable phenomena can be weeded out, leaving a small residue of puzzling reports.
These fall neatly into the same categories as modern UFO reports, suggesting that the UFO phenomenon, whatever it may be due to, has not changed much over
Throughout recorded history, reports of what we today might call unidentified flying objects have been made and preserved.
If more information were available to us, we would perhaps find that conventional scientific hypotheses could explain most, if not all of these.
Certainly this has turned out to be true of most reports from better-documented periods.
There nonetheless remains a small residue of puzzling accounts, and regardless of what interpretation one places on them, these constitute a phenomenon that spans centuries of time and widely different cultures.
What may surprise the serious student of the subject is that, despite the numerous articles and books published by scientists on UFOs over the past six decades, almost no scholarly studies of the very early history of the phenomenon have appeared.
What little has been accomplished was initiated in 1953 by the astronomer Donald Menzel’s naturalistic interpretation of reports in Pliny the Elder’s Natural History.
Menzel’s study, however, proved superficial, and had the unfortunate consequence of inducing UFO enthusiasts to compile long, uncritical lists of all kinds of phenomena seen in the ancient skies and call them UFOs.
Their methodology was roundly criticized in the 1968 Condon Report by Samuel Rosenberg, who did not, however, attempt a fresh start by tracking down and analyzing the primary sources themselves.
Richard Wittmann, ignoring these authors, produced in 1968 a more scholarly, but also more restricted study of ancient “flying shields.”
The subject has languished since 1971 and 1975, when Peter Bicknell published two cautious articles in which UFOs were treated only incidentally.
The most liberal attitude would allow that, to an ancient observer, many aerial phenomena were mysterious and hence to some extent unidentified, despite the observer’s ability to describe them in familiar subjective terms and despite ancient attempts at theorizing about their nature.
Today we can filter out the most obvious cases of conventional phenomena, in spite of the archaic terminology used to describe them.
The approach adopted here will be to search for aerial phenomena in the more reliable ancient reports that look like modern UFOs, but without ignoring other manifestations of “strangeness.”
My working hypothesis will be that most such reports can be explained by conventional scientific ideas and that, among all the reports, only those that defy reasonable interpretation after full analysis can be said to resemble the most puzzling reports made today.
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